Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Anne Rice on Christ the Lord--The Road to Cana -- and Vampires
On March 4 Knopf will release the latest from Anne Rice, her second novel about the life of Jesus. The first, Christ the Lord--Out of Egypt, focused on Jesus' childhood years, about which the Bible says very little. This new one, Christ the Lord--The Road to Cana, looks at Jesus during his years of ministry. Publishers Weekly has given this novel a starred review.
By now you have probably heard the story of Anne Rice's turning toward God, and her vow to write for Him. It's a wonderful story. It's great to see a talented author with Anne's following make such a vow, knowing she may well lose some readers. (As it turns out, her first Christ the Lord book did very well.) I have read Annie Rice since her early vampire days. Actually, I read her before that. One of my favorite books by her was The Feast of All Saints, published around 1980. This is a sweeping, lyrical historical novel. If you don't like horror, but want a taste of Anne Rice's backlist, try this one.
In The Road to Cana Rice apparently has taken some liberties in her interpretation of Jesus' life. One example is mentioned in a recent World magazine article. (To subscribe to World magazine, go here. ) Rice notes that she doesn't believe Satan knew Jesus was God. "He knows Jesus believes He is God; but Satan doesn't really know the truth of it." According to the article she bases this belief on historian Jeffrey Burton Russell's "work on Satan in the New Testament," and on the opinions of early church fathers: "Satan doesn't really know Who he is dealing with. He's baffled by the signs and wonders surrounding Jesus' birth. He knows he's up against something wholly new. And so he is really going to go all out to try to tempt this mysterious figure of Jesus."
I don't concur with this belief, based on my reading of the Scriptures. We know Satan to be the leader of the demonic world. We also see in such verses as Matthew 8:29 that even underling demons knew very well who Jesus was. When Jesus was about to cast multiple demons out of a man, they cried: "What do we have to do with you, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?" This passage not only shows demons know Who Jesus is, but they also know that in the end--they're toast. Jesus wins.
The World magazine article includes an excerpt from The Road to Cana--Satan's temptation of Jesus. It's an interesting scene. Rice chose to depict Satan as appearing to Jesus in the form of Jesus--all fancied up. "The devil is always played too simply," she said. Rice thought Satan would be more "sophisticated" in his approach. He would show Jesus "how very handsome and beautiful He might look, were He to take power over the whole world, and become a ruler of great wealth." Rice adds, "... this is how I played it while remaining strictly within the framework of Holy Scripture."
I do think the Satan-looking-like-Jesus idea is fictional license. And it's a cool interpretation. But I wish Rice's research hadn't led her to believe Satan didn't know who Jesus was. I find the temptations of Jesus much more fascinating in the light that Satan does know. And, like the demons, he knows his days are numbered. Yet, prideful that he is, Satan went after Jesus to tempt Him anyway. Anne writes a good scene. But I think it could have been even more layered if written from the biblical viewpoint that Satan knows if he can't succeed in bringing down the Son of Man, he is doomed.
Amid the buzz of The Road to Cana's release now comes some controversy over an article in Time magazine, which quotes Anne as saying she will write another Lestat vampire novel. Is she distancing herself from her former vow to write for God? the writer wonders. The article says of Anne's decision, "it's difficult to see it as anything but a change of heart."
Let's not be so quick to judge. I refer you to the source for the answer--Anne Rice herself. Please read this direct, unequivocal response. God has done a terrific work in Anne's life, and she's not shy in saying so. I just pray that the Christian community will uphold and support this sister in Christ, whether we agree with all her interpretations of the Bible or not. I applaud Anne for her courage and for following God's call on her writing. Reading the statement on her web site, I get all teary-eyed and can only say, "Praise God."
Besides, it's gonna be way cool to read a redemptive vampire novel from the best-known author of vampire stories.